Irish firm brings vision to drone maker

Movidius unveiled as provider behind the Phantom 4’s vision-aided flight system

DJI drone: Movidius processor facilitates a number of new features

Irish company Movidius has done a deal with drone maker DJI that brings the company's vision-sensing technology to the latest Phantom drone.

The Dublin-founded firm has been unveiled as the provider behind the Phantom 4’s vision-aided flight system, which gives the drone the ability to sense and avoid obstacles in real time. DJI developed specialised software algorithms in spatial computing and 3D depth sensing to combine with the Movidius’ Myriad 2 chip.

The Movidius processor facilitates a number of new features in the DJI drone, including Tap Fly, which allows pilots to tap a spot on the screen to direct the drone and Active Track, which can designate an object or person on the screen to track.

The drone can also hover in a fixed position without the need for a GPS signal.


“DJI’s goal with this is that it be impossible to crash and it lowers the barrier to people adopting drones. It’s much easier for people to fly,” said chief operating officer and co-founder of Movidius Seán Mitchell. “It’s more intuitive than using the two-stick controller.”

The platform enables streams from multiple video cameras to be processed, along with readings from other sensors such as accelerometers, depth sensors, gyroscopic sensors and sonar. “That’s all coming together and we can put on top of that object identification and tracking.”

Mr Mitchell said the Phantom 4 was a milestone for vision-sensing technology.

“It is going to be very interesting to see how things evolve as these devices become more autonomous and more intelligent. The intention is to make life easier for people and safer,” he said.


Paul Pan, senior product manager at DJI, said the company was constantly seeking ways to expand its technological capabilities. “Movidius’ vision processor platform, Myriad 2, met the rigorous requirements we set for our flagship product,” he said.

This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw a number of new drones unveiled at the show. Intel demonstrated a drone, the Typhoon H, on stage that offered obstacle recognition using its RealSense camera, dodging a falling tree as part of the showcase. However, the product, made by Yuneec, has yet to hit the market. The Phantom 4 is available for €1,600 now.

“We’ve seen companies showing demonstrations; this is a real product and it’s a flagship product by an industry leader, and I think that’s the real proof of the pudding,” said Mr Mitchell.

The DJI deal is the latest announcement from the company which also revealed a lucrative deal with Google earlier this year. Movidius employs about 140 people between its offices in Dublin, Romania, the US and China.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist